FOXBORO, Mass. — Check back with Bill Belichick in a month and a half to find out how he feels about this year’s New England Patriots squad.
After over a month of training camp practices and four preseason games, Belichick still isn’t quite sure what he has.
“I don’t think you really know your team until the middle of October,” Belichick said Tuesday. “Especially now with limited training camp. Different than what it was when I was with the Giants, you know, 50 preseason practices, we had a better idea. It is what it is. Every team has the same opportunities. I think we’ll see a lot of movement, a lot of adjustments in the first third of the season like we’ve seen historically here in the last few years.”
What Belichick is saying makes sense, as the Patriots turned over more than one-third of their roster from the 2015 season. Rookies such as wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, guard Joe Thuney, defensive tackle Vincent Valentine and cornerback Cyrus Jones are primed to take on big roles this season, as are veteran additions like wide receiver Chris Hogan, tight end Martellus Bennett, guard Jonathan Cooper, defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, defensive end Chris Long and linebackers Barkevious Mingo and Shea McClellin.
Mingo was acquired just before the Patriots’ third preseason matchup and has participated in just a handful of practices and one exhibition game before the season begins Sunday night. There’s no way for Belichick to know what he can realistically expect of those additions until he sees how they perform with full reps in regular-season games.
It also doesn’t help that Jimmy Garoppolo, not Tom Brady, will be the Patriots’ starting quarterback in September. Garoppolo never has started a regular-season NFL game. The Patriots also likely still are sorting out their depth chart.
Fortunately, Belchick has a good sense of the other two-thirds of his roster, which includes most of his top 10-ranked starting defense from 2015.
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